On the Friday night commencement of “Halloweekend” this year, the outside of the towering, iconic Milwaukee Art Museum structure was relatively quiet but what was inside told a much different story.
The main room of the museum displays a vast sea of marble flooring, and intricate architecture both covered in white that provided the perfect canvas for the Halloween edition of MAM After Dark: Steampunk.
The room was illuminated with red lighting by the DJ booth which played a mixture of obscure and mainstream tunes while two separate walls projected film clips from the German Expressionist Cinema era that were taken from the “Haunted Screens” exhibit that was part of the event.
Steampunk is a mixture the Victorian era and the industrial revolution. It also has some of the same dark undertones of Germany. The costumes reflected the theme as black-laced skirts grazed the floor, leather jackets squeaked, and metal Steampunk goggle’s that look like they are for welding or industrial trinkets hung from people’s necks.
The event did not limit people to wearing Steampunk attire; others came dressed as their own Halloween characters as well. In the crowd a Wonder Woman and a “David Pumpkins” from a recent Tom Hanks SNL skit were also spotted. There were also individuals who decided to not dress up but the atmosphere was inviting to all and the one common denominator was that people were there to have fun.
Art and Halloween complement each other by both allowing individuals to express themselves through canvas or clothes which is what made the Halloween MAM After Dark: Steampunk edition so special.
In the past, the MAM has done events with themes such as “Mad Men” but as the museum has evolved, its leaders have decided to veer away from doing costume themed events but returned to a theme for Halloween.
“To come back to something that’s a straight theme that you can dress up as and with it being Halloween, it’s perfect,” said Events Director Krista Renfrew.
With a more playful theme on a holiday that encourages individuals to embrace their inner child, the air felt notably different.
“Everyone is extra friendly tonight and extra engaging, and it’s been a really fun event to plan,” said Renfrew.
It’s been three years since the MAM hosted a proper Halloween event, and the museum came back in full force. The activities of the night included trivia in the café, emoji scavenger hunts, DIY stations, haunted “wild card” tours, tarot card readings, a photo booth, and air-brush tattoos while you were also able to enjoy food and drinks from the multiple bars and the cafeteria.
The most widely talked about part of the event was the Haunted Screens exhibit that attendees gained admission to for the event.
The exhibit included screenings from the German Expressionist era in cinema. Some of the films that were shown included Metropolis, The Golem, and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which are all works of art that are said to have inspired many films by director Tim Burton.
Included in the exhibit were set drawings before they were brought to life by cinema which many onlookers showed interest in just as much as they did with the films that were screened.
Two attendees enjoying the exhibit were Ricky Becker and Theresa Strurzl of Milwaukee, who shared their thoughts about the event.
“I like that so many people are participating, that’s really great, and it’s a stunning exhibition,” said Becker.
The enthusiasm of partygoers was duly noted.
“Everybody’s very open and friendly, and it’s just a fun event overall. Everybody’s just in such a positive, let’s go out mood,” said Strurzl.
Inside the event, the “wild card” tour took place, which was hosted by the Gothic
Milwaukee tour-guide Anna Lardinois. This particular tour was intended to talk about the tales behind the famous movies shown inside the exhibit and to give a different perspective on art.
“I’m not an artist or an art historian, so I am presenting the works in a different way,” said Lardinois.
The tour also noted how the films and the tales included in the exhibit influence our modern culture and how the German history has been more interesting for attendees due to the rich German heritage in Milwaukee.
Outside of the exhibit when the song “Thriller” played, everyone could be seen either dancing or wiggling in their spots while the famous music video played on the two main walls of the room. The song was so popular that four attendees started to breakdance to the song, further showcasing the playful mood of the night.
The costumes were undoubtedly the centerpiece of the event and some were even handmade by attendees such as Sandi Zangerle’s costume.
“It’s super fun to come and dress up and people are typically a little more into art so they appreciate cool costumes, but this is a wonderful space and it’s an entirely different way of interacting with the museum,” said Zangerle of Raymond, WI.
Off to the side of the dance floor, a group of actors played as the roles from The Cabinet of Dr. Calagari, interacting with the guests in character.
Down the corridor to the museum art entrance where attendees were also given access to for the night, there were DIY stations set up including pattered paper to make cut outs and scratch art rainbow paper.
Sitting at one of the stations were Elyse Transon and Matt Taylor of Milwaukee, who mentioned their appreciation for being given a different Friday night option other than the bar scene.
“It’s a different type of environment, different types of people coming together. It’s a nice change of pace, something fun to do,” said Taylor.
Milwaukee’s bar scene is extensive, but the MAM provides an alternative area for younger people to congregate.
Although the evening skewed towards the older demographic due to the Steampunk theme and a large portion of the millennial generation not knowing what that is, there was still a young age group present.
As the night started to come to an end the energy did not expire, especially when the song Formation by Beyoncé played while scenes from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis bumped on beat to the music.
As for the future of MAM After Dark Events, Renfrew says she hopes that the event continues to grow and that the word spreads that this is a fun and approachable event.